PCOS and Weight Loss: Is This A Real Problem?

It’s no secret that the fashion industry hasn’t been doing very well. In fact, according to a new report from New York City-based investment firm, The Diffusion Group, the industry saw its value decrease by 10 percent between February and April 2020.

Whether it’s due to the pandemic or changes in retail and consumer behavior, the fashion industry hasn’t been the same since the start of 2020.

While there are certainly a number of challenges the fashion industry currently faces, one of the largest may be that many of its consumers are now trying to lose weight. And it’s not just the millennials who were inspired by Instagram and TikTok’s massive success in shaping young consumer behavior in the 2020s. Even Gen Z, who are sometimes considered to be the ‘generation Z’ that bought nothing but TikToks and clocked in to jobs with very little social interaction, are now facing higher weights than before the pandemic.

With more and more people trying to lose weight and improve their health, how should the fashion industry respond? The answer may lie in better understanding the Pollyanna Effect, a phenomenon first proposed by Dr. John Sarno in 1988 that is characterized by “pollyanna optimism.”

Here are some of the ways the fashion industry can respond to the Pollyanna Effect and the growing number of people trying to lose weight.

Create More Balanced Outfits

One of the major issues contributing to the Pollyanna Effect in the first place was that fashion industry predominantly featured thin, blonde, and blue-eyed models on its pages and screens. The end result was that consumers grew to expect that the clothes they were buying would make them look the same. Research has shown that this unfulfilled need to look a certain way can contribute to disordered eating and, ultimately, weight gain.

While the fashion industry has made great strides in diversifying its models thanks in part to more women and people of color entering the field, it still heavily favors thin, blonde, and blue-eyed individuals. And it’s not just about the models. Many clothing brands have also adopted uniform sizing and encouraged an obsessive focus on thinness as a sign of success.

Because of this homogenous cultural bias, it’s no wonder that when fashion industry insiders speak about the weight loss trend, they tend to use phrases like “bereft of logic” or “counterintuitive.” One industry insider described the fashion industry’s response to weight loss as “a bit of a kamikaze approach.” Another said that the Pollyanna Effect was a complete “reversal of common sense.”

It may be counterintuitive, but instead of encouraging thinness as a means of attracting consumers, the fashion industry should work to promote a healthy body image and a comfortable relationship with food. This means using inclusive fashion language and models that represent a more realistic depiction of the people it hopes to attract. Fortunately, as we’ve seen with TikTok, many younger consumers are more open to new ideas than their elders and they’re much more likely to value diversity in all aspects of life, including fashion. If brands want to attract this demographic, they should make sure that their clothes reflect this openness by featuring a mix of shapes, sizes, and colors.

Provide Clarity

Fashion and beauty industry leaders have also tried to respond to this changing consumer base by creating clarity around the meaning of certain terms. We’re going through a digital transformation in the middle of a public health crisis, after all, and many of the terms we use every day have entirely different meanings when applied to fashion and beauty.

Take ‘fitspo’ for example, which originally stood for ‘fits per week’ and was used to track the inspiration for body-posi fitness trends. Now, due to its multiple definitions, fitspo can mean ‘likes’ on TikTok, ‘food porn’ on Instagram, or ‘inspiration’ in the fashion industry. To avoid any confusion, fashion insiders have defined fitspo as ‘likes’ on TikTok.

Similarly, ‘fitsvana’ was used to refer to the ‘fitness fashion’ trends that emerged in the 2000s and featured sporty and health-conscious individuals engaged in activities like running or cycling. Now, due to its multiple definitions, fitsvana can refer to an athletic look that is also associated with a healthy lifestyle, or it can mean ‘like’ on TikTok.

These are just a few examples of the numerous ways that the fashion industry has tried to grapple with its changing consumer base in the wake of the pandemic. As we continue to navigate this new normal, the fashion industry will continue to face a lot of challenges, but it also possesses the opportunity to learn a lot about how it can better serve the needs of its consumers. More importantly, through this transformation period, fashion can reaffirm its commitment to promoting healthy lifestyles for the many individuals that it hopes to attract.